Peter Stuyvesant and the Fall of New Amsterdam: Where did the Dutch roots of New York City go?

PODCAST There would be no New York City without Peter Stuyvesant, the stern, authoritarian director-general of New Amsterdam, the Dutch port town that predates the Big Apple. 

The willpower of this complicated leader took an endangered ramshackle settlement and transformed it into a functioning city. But Mr. Stuyvesant was no angel.

In part two in the Bowery Boys’ look into the history of New Amsterdam, we launch into the tale of Stuyvesant from the moment he steps foot (or peg leg, as it were) onto the shores of Manhattan in 1647.

Stuyvesant immediately set to work reforming the government, cleaning up New Amsterdam’s filth and even planning new streets. He authorized the construction of a new market, a commercial canal and a defense wall — on the spot of today’s Wall Street. But Peter would act very un-Dutch-like in his intolerance of varied religious beliefs, and the institution of slavery would flourish in New Amsterdam under his unwavering direction.

And yet the story of New York City’s Dutch roots does not end with the city’s occupation by the English in 1664 — or even in 1673 (when the city was briefly retaken by a Dutch fleet). The Dutch spirit remained alive in the New York countryside, becoming part of regional customs and dialect.

And yet the story of New Amsterdam might otherwise be ignored if not for a determined group of translators who began work on a critical project in the 1970s……

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The Costello Plan, New Amsterdam 1660. Surveyed by Jacque Cortelyou. Full size photograph of manuscript map in the Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana of Florence, Italy. The Castello plan is the earliest known plan of New Amsterdam, and the only one dating from the Dutch period. Wikicommons.

New Amsterdam in miniature at the Museum of the City of New York, photographed in 1932

Museum of the City of New York

 

Peter Stuyvesant tearing the letter demanding the surrender of New York. Artist Howard Pyle, 1923. New York Public Library

The moment when New Amsterdam became New York, depicted in a 1914 picture book.

 

The old Stuyvesant mansion, near First Avenue, engraved for the N.Y. Mirror newspaper. Courtesy NYPL

The New Netherland Research Center, located on the seventh floor of the New York State Library.  For more information, visit the New Netherland Institute website.

Greg Young

 

FURTHER LISTENING

We didn’t go too deeply into it in our latest show, but the Bronx also has a very rich Dutch history. The name even comes from a (unfortunately doomed) Dutch settler.

The early history of Broadway begins in New Amsterdam.

We also spoke about the ‘rattle watch’ in our show on the New York Fire Department.